Academic journal article Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

A Response Rule for Positive and Negative Stimulus Interaction in Associative Learning and Performance

Academic journal article Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

A Response Rule for Positive and Negative Stimulus Interaction in Associative Learning and Performance

Article excerpt

The present article presents a response rule developed to account for both positive and negative stimulus interaction. In the response rule proposed here, positive interaction phenomena (e.g., second-order conditioning) and negative interaction phenomena (e.g., Pavlovian conditioned inhibition) are presumed to occur during performance and acquisition, respectively. Also, in this rule the novelty of the test stimulus determines the expression of positive interaction on responding. As the stimulus loses its novelty over training, positive interaction effects will wane, which will allow negative interaction effects to emerge in responding elicited by the stimulus. It is proposed that this response rule can be adopted by acquisition-focused associative models (e.g., Rescorla & Wagner, 1972) in order to account for contrary associative phenomena in the literature. The simulation program used in this study is available for download from the author's website and from the Psychonomic Society website at www.psychonomic.org/archive.

The conditioned response elicited by a target cue or conditioned stimulus (CS) due to its pairings with an outcome or unconditioned stimulus (US) is known to depend on the associative status of other CSs that were presented in compound with the target CS. In fact, training two CSs in compound and observing the impact of the associative history of the nontarget CS on responding to the target CS (i.e., what is known as stimulus interaction) is perhaps one of the most powerful tools for the study of the processes involved in associative learning. Generally speaking, two main types of stimulus interaction can be observed after compound treatment, which we shall refer to as positive and negative interaction. In positive interaction phenomena the response potential of the target CS is positively related to the response potential of the nontarget CS. This is the case of secondorder conditioning (Pavlov, 1927), sensory preconditioning (Brodgen, 1939), and representation-mediated acquisition and extinction (e.g., Holland, 1981; Holland & Forbes, 1982). In negative interaction phenomena the response potential of the target CS is negatively related to the response potential of the nontarget CS. Examples of negative interaction are Pavlovian conditioned inhibition and stimulus competition effects, such as overshadowing (Pavlov, 1927) and blocking (Kamin, 1968).

With some notable exceptions (e.g., Holland, 1981), most models of learning have ignored the need for explanations of positive interaction phenomena and have exclusively focused on accounting for negative interaction effects. This is the case of associative models of learning (e.g., Dickinson & Burke, 1996; Mackintosh, 1975; Pearce & Hall, 1980; Rescorla & Wagner, 1972; Van Hamme & Wasserman, 1994; Wagner, 1981), statistical models (e.g., Allan, 1980; Cheng, 1997), and comparator theory (Denniston, Savastano, & Miller, 2001; Miller & Matzel, 1988). This inability of models of learning to account for positive interaction becomes a more serious problem when one considers that highly similar experimental treatments can yield either positive or negative interaction effects. One such treatment consists of presenting pairings of the nontarget CS, A, with the US (i.e., A[arrow right]US trials) interspersed with nonreinforced presentations of A in compound with the target CS, X (i.e., AX[arrow right]noUS trials). This treatment can result in CS X eliciting either excitatory responding (i.e., second-order conditioning) or behavior indicative of inhibition (i.e., Pavlovian conditioned inhibition). Interestingly, some studies found that second-order conditioning occurs after few AX[arrow right]noUS trials, followed by the development of Pavlovian conditioned inhibition after many AX[arrow right]noUS trials (Stout, Escobar, & Miller, 2004; Yin, Barnet, & Miller, 1994). These authors (also see Gewirtz & Davis, 2000) interpreted these results as indicative of the operation of two processes that develop at different rates. …

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